STALIN by Edvard Radzinsky


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 A remarkable and gripping biography that may change the way we view Stalin and will certainly change many of the interpretations of his life. Based on unprecedented access to a range of archives, including the President's Archive, the Central Party Archive, and some KGB files, as well as interviews with survivors, Radzinsky (The Last Tsar, 1992) has created a stunning portrait of a man who falls outside most of the normal human categories. Radzinsky's most significant contribution is to suggest that Stalin, in shedding the lives of untold millions, was following the prescripts of his ``teachers'': of revolutionary writers like Peter Tkachev and Bakunin, who believed that to create a new society ``the majority of the population must be exterminated''; of Trotsky, whose books advocating terror and revolutionary violence, found in the Party Archive, bear enthusiastic annotations in Stalin's hand; and of Lenin, who held the view that ``at some critical stage every generation of revolutionaries becomes a hindrance to the further development of the idea which they have carried forward,'' a view that may have served to justify the destruction of hundreds of thousands of party members in the 1930s. Radzinsky also clarifies much that has been uncertain. He penetrates Stalin's efforts to obscure his origins, and reveals that his mother lived in a palace, chiding her son and steadfastly refusing to visit him in Moscow; he suggests that, prior to the Civil War, Stalin, acting on Lenin's instructions, was probably a tsarist double agent; he adduces evidence that Stalin did not poison Lenin, who died of atherosclerosis; he reveals conclusively that Stalin ``personally staged the [show] trials'' of the 1930s; and indicates that he himself was probably poisoned by his police chief, Beria. At times too rhetorical, and not always clear in its use of sources, Radzinsky's book is, in the fullest sense of the word, a tour de force. (50 b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: April 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-385-47397-4
Page count: 560pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1996


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